Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Shroud Of Despondency - The Beast's Desire To Sacrifice (2015)

Though this record came out a little while ago, I'm kind of shocked as to it's existence. As you might remember, the band declared themselves dead after the release of their previous effort and apparent final release, Family Tomb. As you also may recall, I thought Family Tomb was a great send-off for the band and a surefire sign that they've left their mark. Nevertheless, the mere fact that The Beast's Desire To Sacrifice exists, says to me that these gentlemen clearly aren't ready to call it quits yet, nor should they. There's far too much damn talent here, just as this record displays rather well. Make no mistake about it, you're getting a black metal performance with elements of I guess one could say technicality and perhaps even a little bit of melodic death metal. It's just a hodgepodge of extreme, but feels a little closer to the source material. It also has a higher production quality than Family Tomb, which makes we wonder if the band literally recorded that record in such a lo-fi quality just for the heck of it. Even so, you're not getting another Family Tomb with this one. You're getting what I would consider the second step in that evolution. The Beast's Desire... is still Gothic, and it's keyboard usage is still as dreary and forlorn as we might expect. The drums still blast, the tremolos are still as frosty as ever and the vocals are still just as scathing as we'd expect them to be. There are even solo sections to be had, which as you know always work for me when done right. Now these are the kind of rock style solos that you might not expect to hear so much in black metal, but the fact of the matter is that the performance here never claimed to be purely anything and winds up instead being much better than a plethora of bands that would rather stick to one style. Shroud Of Despondency have never been a band to stick with one approach and it's kept their music from becoming stagnant. There are some death growls in use here every once in a while too, which gives us a little more than what could've been a very one-sided vocal approach. Even some clean and spoken word pieces appear on the album, as well as a short instrumental break called “The Hidden” which I'd consider a bit creepy. Keeping that in mind, there's also “To Get All I Need” which sounds like a completely different band altogether. As euphoric synths and piano excursions work to decorate various soundclips, we're definitely getting a taste of something that we surely wouldn't have heard on Family Tomb.

This kind of will to push further beyond the boundaries of what most people consider to be heavy metal, and what most people consider to appear on a heavy metal album is why I have an awful lot of respect for these guys. I have literally met people who feel that certain things should not appear on a heavy metal album, because they listen to heavy metal when they're expecting to hear something heavy. Their argument is that when they want to hear something that isn't heavy, they'll simply listen to another type of music. While that is all well and good, and perfectly acceptable; I still think that a musician should be free to write the kind of music that he wants to write, regardless of whether or not certain people will listen to it or consider it heavy metal. There's obviously enough black and death metal influence here to give the listener a pounding atmosphere, but it leaves room for tea; and In my opinion, there's always room for tea. A few alternate drum mixes comprise the bonus tracks for the album, but for the most part you are getting a memorable performance from Rory Heikkila and Ron Blemberg, just as we received on the previous outing and the one before that. As interesting as the Gust project is, I'm glad to see that these guys haven't closed the book on Shroud Of Despondency yet. I'd still consider this act far superior and can't wait to see what future efforts will bring.

(9 Tracks, 58:00 (Omitting Alternate Mixes)


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